The past week has been a very unorganized, but exciting part of the year. I moved into a hostel, called “The Hump,” and have been slowly structuring my new life here in Kunming. I first met with my Fulbright advisor, Dr. Wu, who is absolutely wonderful. She was my advisor two years ago during my study abroad program in Kunming, so we already have a close relationship. She would like me to begin my fieldwork in February. I’ll be busy reading fieldwork manuals until then.
I have also been apartment hunting for more than a week. One day, I was lost trying to find an apartment off of Hong Mountain East Street when a very friendly foreigner came out of nowhere and asked in perfect English, “Do you need help?” Of course, he was a fellow Minnesotan! Go Minnesota nice! Turned out I planted myself right in front of “The Slice of Heaven Cafe,” where he just came out of. When he heard I was looking for a place to live, he mentioned that the owner of the Slice of Heaven is looking for a temporary roommate. After I checked out the first apartment, I came back to the cafe and talked to the owner. She was busy and just gave me her keys. She said in a New Zealand accent, “You can find it yourself. Not too difficult.” I used the keys to enter a nice, tropical forested complex. I found the apartment building and took an elevator to the eleventh floor. I opened the door to find the nicest apartment I have yet to see in China. The view from the living room showed Kunming cityscape and a tall, red mountain in the distance. I opened my room to find a queen sized bed and a spectacular view of Kunming and the distant mountains…I’ll take it! (Also, I’m paying the same amount that I would be paying at the hostel every night. Good deal!)
At the end of each day, after meeting my professor or looking at multiple apartments, I often spend the rest of daylight walking around Kunming. I’m trying to get to know it, understand the bus system, and meet people:
Visiting the Bird and Flower District
One of the Gates in the City Center
Visiting Cui Lake, The Seagulls are Back
My New Neighborhood, Hong Mountain District
One of my favorite moments so far this week, is when I got lost looking for the police station in Hong Mountain District. I literally hiked up the “mountain” (considered a tall hill) and went through a maze of alleyways to finally find the station in a quaint part of the neighborhood. Through this experience, I got to know my new neighborhood. I also ran into a delicious gaifan restaurant and had lunch.
Since I don’t have many friends in Kunming at the moment (except for the other Fulbrighters), I have been quite eager forming connections with people who live in this district. For instance, I visited a bedmaker to help me sew a new bed spread. During this visit, I got to know a women and her mother, as well as the bedmaker. We talked about what spread they should choose for the baby (who was going to be born in 9 days!). At the end of the visit, the bedmaker said, “You made a new friend, so here’s a discount for your sheet!” I took that as an endearing comment. I hope to run into that women again and her new baby!
I also found a frisbee group here in Kunming. After ultimate, we met up later and played boardgames. I’m slowly finding my place. I think I’m going to like it here.